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Natcore awarded use of government solar patents Company will be allowed to commercialize patented technology for renewable energy
I’m pretty bullish on solar. It’s not because I’m an environmentalist, although the idea of sustainable energy is a laudable one.
My interest is prompted by the significant technological advances made in the last few years, including a number of patents issued to Rochester-based companies in the solar energy field.
They’ve helped to both increase the efficiency of solar cells and dramatically reduce the cost. All indications are that this trend will continue, and that we’re getting closer to making solar power a viable choice for homeowners.
There are about a dozen solar energy companies based in Rochester, driven in part by our strong background in optics: Reflexite Energy Solutions makes solar lens components. SPX Thermal Product Solutions makes crystal growing furnaces, used to produce photovoltaic wafers. Solar Sentry developed a system to monitor solar arrays.
One of the newest faces on the scene is Natcore Technology, a New Jersey-based company that opened a research and development laboratory at Eastman Business Park in March. The technology they’re working on could be a game-changer.
Last week, the company announced it had licensed patents from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the U.S. Department of Energy’s primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development.
The NREL patents cover a material called “black silicon.” A silicon wafer is etched to create nano-scale pores, increasing the surface area exposed to sunlight. It’s not really black, but appears that way due to the absence of reflected light. A panel made from black silicon solar cells will produce a significantly greater amount of energy, and will perform better during the morning and afternoon hours when the sun is at a lower angle.
In addition to generating more energy, the black silicon solar cells are less expensive to produce. In a press release announcing the patent licensing agreement, CEO Chuck Provini was optimistic about the impact of the technology. “This could be another step toward our goal of halving the cost and doubling the output of solar cells,” he said.